Archive | October 2014

Being “God Loves Me” Minded

 

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Song of Solomon 2 Living Bible (TLB) – 2 The Girl: “I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley.” King Solomon: 2 “Yes, a lily among thorns, so is my beloved as compared with any other girls.” The Girl: 3 “My lover is an apple tree, the finest in the orchard as compared with any of the other youths. I am seated in his much-desired shade and his fruit is lovely to eat. 4 He brings me to the banquet hall, and everyone can see how much he loves me. 5 Oh, feed me with your love—your ‘raisins’ and your ‘apples’—for I am utterly lovesick. 6 His left hand is under my head and with his right hand he embraces me. 7 O girls of Jerusalem, I adjure you by the gazelles and deer in the park, that you do not awaken my lover.[a] Let him sleep!” The Girl: 8 “Ah, I hear him—my beloved! Here he comes, leaping upon the mountains and bounding over the hills. 9 My beloved is like a gazelle or young deer. Look, there he is behind the wall, now looking in at the windows. 10 “My beloved said to me, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 11 For the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. 12 The flowers are springing up and the time of the singing of birds has come. Yes, spring is here.[b] 13 The leaves are coming out,[c] and the grapevines are in blossom. How delicious they smell! Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ 14 “My dove is hiding behind some rocks, behind an outcrop of the cliff. Call to me and let me hear your lovely voice and see your handsome face. 15 “The little foxes are ruining the vineyards. Catch them, for the grapes are all in blossom. 16 “My beloved is mine and I am his. He is feeding among the lilies! 17 Before the dawn comes and the shadows flee away, come to me, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices.”

For those of us who have been in love and in that relationship for a long while we know that how we see that love, feel that love and experience that love takes on many different faces over time.  The phase that seems to get the most attention is the one that is the shortest lived, the heart palpitating, weak in the knees, stars in the eyes experience when we first fall in love.  While it is usually the briefest phase it seems to be how love is measured and overshadows the love that has matured and becomes the foundation of a love long lived.  I hadn’t really given it much thought in how that same mindset applies to how we see and experience our relationship with our Heavenly Father but as I continue this journey of discovery, step by little step, I realized that similar to the way we have a tendency to measure the depth of love of a person by that first phase of feelings of love, so we may measure our Father’s love for us by our initial experience when we were first saved and were so lost in the feeling of freedom from sin and the gratefulness and thankfulness that He rescued us from being so very lost.  But days go by, months, years and for some of us, decades and we miss that euphoria, reckless abandon and sheer gratefulness.

In Revelations 2 Jesus talks about the church of Ephesus and I find it interesting because they are living out some amazing godly character traits but even with that they still lost their first love.  I want to know how to not only keep my first love but enjoy all phases of the maturity of love and really become “God loves Me” minded.  In that endeavor here are some things that I’m realizing short circuit my ability to recognize His unchanging love for me and also some things that combat and overcome those challenges.  One of the greatest obstacles to my ability to realize how very much I am loved is living in a fallen world where we are surrounded by selfishness, pain and calamity.  A few months ago I was looking at a major city and while aspects of the city were cool, like the architecture of certain buildings, overall the city streets were dirty, chaos in the traffic and pollution in the air.  I mentally compared that to an area that I had recently visited that was basically untouched by human hands and the sheer beauty of the trees, hills, grass and rocks.  Somehow I was really touched by realization that what man builds decays but what God creates has such a loveliness and peace and it revealed to me that if I can allow God to change the way I look at things I can go from feeling far away from Him to being drawn ever closer without having to change my physical location.

How can we do that?  Let’s go back to our behavior when we’re first in love.  We see all of that person’s wonderful traits, and we have patience for what we perceive as shortcomings.  We put out huge amounts of effort to spend time together, to talk and laugh, dream and plan.  Now we know that intensity of those feelings change over time, but let’s look at the components of our actions vs. the feelings.  Actions such as making that person a priority, focusing on that person and seeing the amazing traits about them, being thankful and gracious, and most importantly, really getting to know them.  As I think about that I realize that while the emotional experience may transform over time, the actions that I can take to be in a position to see how much my Heavenly Father loves me can stay the same and put me in a place to daily see His love for me and relate to Him out of that great love.  I ensure that I’m making time to spend time in His Word and read it as a love letter to me.  I work to have a thankful heart and as I live each day I’m looking for the good in my circumstances and situations and giving Him thanks for the small and large blessings.  I’m allowing my perspective to be of one where my feet are in the beautiful wilderness He has created and regardless of if I’m having to actually spend time in the “big city” to have a view to His majesty that He created for me.

In the chapter above from the Song of Solomon both individuals are speaking the things they love about the other person.  They are encouraging words, saying things that make each other feel special and unique.  When we read the Bible we see how our Heavenly Father created us unique and special.  Throughout He shows us that it is His plan to care for us and in Romans 8:38 Paul reminds us, “38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   So here’s our challenge, to daily become God Loves Me minded.  Even if you are in a difficult stage of your life or surrounded by what looks like ugliness and decay, He’s still there and He is working to bring love and beauty to you every day.  We have to choose to take our focus off of the unpleasant things, things we wish weren’t there, and instead be diligent to see that we are on God’s mind and He is doing many, many things each day and, like the lovers in Song of Solomon, tell Him what we see and have a grateful and thankful heart.  As we do that our spirits will, step by step move from focusing on the corrupted work man has made and see the glorious beauty of what our Heavenly Father has created…for you!

A Daughter’s Prayer – Abba, I need to set my mind and keep it set on things above and not things here on earth.  My desire is to fully experience Jesus’ peace, not the world’s peace, but His peace.  To live in joy unspeakable and full of glory.  To be in your perfect love that casts out all fear.  To walk after the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.  To be in this world but not of this world.  Holy Spirit, please teach me how to not live based upon what I see and hear, but instead to live by the truth of God’s Word, of who He is in my life and Jesus living in me and me in Him.  This world is not my home, my home is in You and all that I need for while I am here is available to me.  I pray Your graciousness and goodness over my footsteps.  All we have is because of You and may it be a blessing to others.  Surely goodness and mercy are following us, overtaking us and overflowing.  May people see Jesus in me and know of Your wonderful works and Your great love for each and every one of them.  In Jesus’ holy name, amen.

The Season Is Fall

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Ecclesiastes 3 (NKJV) – Everything Has Its Time – To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: 2 A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; 3 A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; 7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; 8 A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

Of the places I’ve lived, and somehow there have been quite a few of those, Connecticut is the only one where we had the four seasons.  We moved there in July of 2006, and everyone told me how beautiful fall was and I couldn’t imagine it.  But when October came and those leaves turned and we drove through the hills and neighborhoods it was one of the most beautiful sites I had ever seen.  The golds, burnt oranges, rust reds and remnants of green were absolutely breathtaking.  What I learned though, is that those colors were the heralding of a much less loved season…winter.  So fall for me became bittersweet.  Sweet because it was a season of beauty and festivals, wonderful temperatures and sitting around campfires with friends.  Bitter because we knew that the cold fingers of winter were creeping in and all the beauty would fall to the ground to be covered with frost and snow leaving sad bare trees and dead bushes and frozen ground.

As I’ve pondered the seasons and which was my favorite, is it Spring when everything is new and flowers are budding or maybe Summer when you feel a sense of freedom that takes you back to when you were growing up and knowing you had months away from school and were free to do whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted?  Was it Fall when you were able to harvest apples, pick pumpkins and play in the gorgeous fallen leaves or was it Winter when you could ski down the beautiful snow covered slopes, build a snowman and celebrate family holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas?  But while each season has its beauty and wonderful memories, they also each bring things that we don’t enjoy.  Days of rain and pulling weeds or heat so intense you have to watch the sun from the inside, or the hours spent bagging those fallen leaves to protect your yard from blight and the snow that seems to never stop and you’re plowing and shoveling and freezing, never able to get warm.  It’s funny, you almost lose sight of the beauty of each season and begin to focus on the pain, suffering and inconvenience that comes with each of them.

As there are the earthly season so are the seasons of our lives.  While I studied chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes my eyes tended to catch the unpleasant events more than they lingered on the pleasant ones.  Words like die and kill, lose and throw away seemed to jump out more than words like laugh and dance and love.  Have you noticed that it’s so much easier to focus on or remember the hard and painful times of our lives than it is the good and joyful times?  To remember joy you have to stop, push out the negative thoughts and concentrate on what is going on that is good or push back negative memories that have overshadowed good memories.  I’ve discovered that I’ve had to become very purposeful in making sure I keep my eyes on the good to ensure that negative thoughts and experiences don’t become the prevalent thoughts in my mind.  It’s been hard but as I’ve started this journey to understand what it means to be My Father’s Daughter, the closer I get to Him, the more I see who He is the more I’m able to recognize the good in me through Jesus, the beauty around me and even more surprising, see the good in others…begin to see things and people (even myself) as He sees them.

I’ll be honest, for some reason this portion of the path was difficult.  There had been painful events over many years and those events built up layer after layer of scars and sensitive areas in my life that quickly responded to situations negatively.  I had to put up post-it notes to remind myself, “Smile!  God’s got this!”  or 1 Peter 5:7 (AMP) Casting the [a]whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, [b]once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you [c]watchfully. “Live a carefree life!” (This one is posted on my desk as we speak!!).  I learned to begin to look again for the beauty in each and every thing, to look for kind and thoughtful things to say to each person I encountered and to daily write in my journal the things I was thankful for versus listing out my frustration, anxiety and fears.  As I look back over my journal I’ve seen a change take place.  A change where as I’ve began to spend time with my Heavenly Father and understand how much He loves me through reading His word throughout the Bible. As I’ve written those words down, prayed them and meditated on them; I’m beginning to see the beauty of each season of my life and even those very painful areas are revealing how God was able to give me beauty for ashes and turn something that the enemy intended for my harm into something that has made me even more beautiful in His sight.

As we go through this season of fall and move to what we sometimes see as the dead season of winter, let’s instead think about the areas of our lives that we’ve thought were the most damaging or hurtful and ask our Abba, through the Holy Spirit, to reveal to us what He sees.  Because in that season He saw something beautiful and life giving.  Something that made us more into His precious plan for us and He is leading us to become the amazing daughter He designed.  Let Him touch those painful places with His love and comfort and transform us and our thoughts to joy where we are able to quickly think of the times of laughter and dancing, healing and peace.  Let’s be guided into seeing each season we live through as an amazing experience and know that while we will have times of pain, He can bring joy and times of sadness but He will bring laughter and those good things will be what define us instead of the bad!

A Daughter’s Prayer – The season is fall, a time to choose to fall into the arms of a loving Father.  With reckless abandon, to throw natural caution to the wind and allow our heavenly Father to lavish His love and goodness on us.  To not be afraid.  To know that He provides whatever we need, wherever He leads us.  The light of His glory illuminates the way.  The force of His presence overcomes all opposition.  He is our shepherd and we are His children, the sheep of His pasture.

The season is fall, a time to finish the harvest and prepare for winter.  With great expectancy we see the fruits of our labor and His blessings in our storehouses.  We see that we have been blessed beyond our needs.  Overflow, plenty to give and share.  God is always so much more than enough.  Lavish.  We are lavished with love, emotional and physical gifts.  Gifts that delight us and others.  Joy and excitement of how great, how good He is.

The season is fall, a time of great beauty in the changing leaves, the late blooming flowers, pumpkins and harvested sheaves.  With peace in our hearts we know God is good.  We see the mystery of how the seasons change, they are transformed and we are transformed.  Our Father sent His Holy Spirit to empower us, to grow us and move us from glory to glory.  The mystery of transformation is made real in our lives.

The season is fall, I fall into the arms of a loving Father.

His Eye is on the Sparrow

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Matthew 10:28-30 (NKJV) – 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

When I’m considering how many people there are in this world and all of the things that are going on in any one of those person’s lives, it’s very hard to fathom that our Heavenly Father can really know and care about what is going on in my life on any given day.  I know how important all these things are to me, large and small, but how in the world can all of that be important to Him?  How can I be important to Him?  My head hurts just thinking about it and if I ponder those thoughts too long, discouragement has a tendency to creep in.  So, do I believe my thoughts or do I believe what Jesus said, that not only does our Heavenly Father have intent attention on each and every one of us, He knows exactly what is going on even with the sparrows.

If we can begin to really understand how interested our Heavenly Father is in every aspect of our lives it will dramatically change the way we interact with Him.  How many times have you heard that Christianity isn’t about a religion it’s about a relationship?  If that’s true, then what makes something a relationship?  Now maybe you’re not very good with relationships or you’ve had a lot of bad ones ranging from bad family interactions, bad boyfriends or friends.  Relationships where they treated you terribly, you came away hurt and broken.  You wonder if you struggle having good relationships with people you can see, how in the world can you have a relationship with a God you can’t see?  Those are all very valid concerns and completely normal.  The answer is interesting, kind of like the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”  I’ve probably got your attention now wondering how in the world did we get to chicken and eggs??!!  Here’s what I’ve been coming to learn, is that without a close and deep relationship with my Heavenly Father I am going to have a really difficult time building strong, healthy relationships with those I care about here on earth.  Why is that?  Here’s why.  As you may have noticed, we humans, and us girls ;), are very self focused.  We look at things at how they impact us and the world/environment we are working to create for ourselves.  Our perspective on relationships tend to be selfish, which means we get hurt and we give hurts when left to do relationships on our own.  By having a deep, abiding relationship with your Heavenly Father you begin to look at people through His eyes and see people as He sees them which is through eyes of love, kindness and giving of yourself, looking for nothing in return (Luke 6:35*).

So here’s the cool thing, as we begin to develop a  personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, and we make that our top priority, all of these other benefits begin to be produced out of that because there is so much life in Him.  He brings life to us, confidence and security and out of that we are able to become healthy emotionally and in turn build healthy relationships with others.  Now that doesn’t mean that all future relationships are great, because there is always the other person who has decisions to make about their part.  What it does mean is that God will give you patience when you need it, compassion for others and sometimes the Holy Spirit will tell you that you need to let a relationship go because the other individual won’t let it be healthy.  From Him springs the very essence of life, so let’s get rooted in Him (don’t forget last week’s resource of Andrew Murray’s Abiding in Him!) and remember His eye is on the sparrow and so much more on us and out of that wellspring will also grow beautiful earthly relationships.  Who knew!  We’d get to love and be loved in an overflow of being our Father’s Daughters!

* Luke 6 is a wonderful chapter to study on how our Heavenly Father wants us to treat others.

ResourceHis Eye is On the Sparrow http://www.ccesonline.com/hymns/sparrow.htm  At the bottom of the page of this hymn is the story of how this hymn came about and I found it very touching.

ResourceRelationship Bible Verses http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/relationship-bible-verses/  If you’re not sure what God has to say about relationships, ours with Him, His with us and ours with others, this link provides some good scripture to read and meditate on because at the end of the day this life is about our relationship as our Father’s Daughters and our relationships with others!

A Daughter’s Prayer – I am completely and thoroughly loved.  Not only am I loved but God loves each and every one of us the same.  May I see each person as God sees them, as is His heart towards them.  Holy Spirit I pray that this selfishness that has been in me and grown in me would be transformed to be mindful of others.  Thinking of them, being thoughtful and doing things that show them Your love.  As my mind is renewed and I operate with my new heart, getting my thoughts off myself because I can rest in the knowledge that my Abba is taking care of me.  I can then be used by Him to show His kindness and mercy to others.  Abba, I feel complete resistance to this in my spirit.  My flesh cringes with the thought.  But, You are greater and we can have my flesh crucified and the love of Christ is shed abroad in my heart.  I will dwell on good things.  I will remain humble and thankful.  I will encourage others and let them know how much I appreciate them.  Because I am a new creature and old things have passed away and all thing have become new and all things are of Christ, I can overcome.  I humble myself before You.  In my own strength I cannot do this, but in You all things are possible.  Help me today to be more thoughtful and kind.  Giving no thought for myself, abandoning selfishness and showing grace and kindness to others.  In Jesus’ holy name, amen!

Finding Myself

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Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV) – 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Am I lost?  Sometimes it feels that way.  How did I get here, why did I want to get here and how do I get somewhere else?!  In my family we have a saying, “You take yourself wherever you go.”  What we’ve found is that unhappiness isn’t always coming from external sources, a lot of the time the unhappiness we feel is because it’s inside of us and as we “take ourselves wherever we go” that unhappiness comes right along with us.  As our Father’s Daughter, His desire is for us to be happy inside, to have that peace that passes understanding so that regardless of where we are, who we’re with or what our circumstances are we can have peace, love, joy and the other fruit of the Spirit.

There’s a beautiful passage in Philippians 4 where Paul talks about that regardless of his circumstances he is content:

Philippians 4:11-13 Amplified Bible (AMP):  11 Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be [a] content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.  12 I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.  13 I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who [b]infuses inner strength into me; I am [c]self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].

It says that we have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers us.  So here’s the real question, how do we find ourselves in Him?  As we’ve talked about in earlier posts, in our modern society we spend a lot of time working to find ourselves, what we are good at, what we enjoy, who we enjoy and the best ways to create an environment where we can be surrounded by those things to ensure an optimal chance to be happy.  What we find, though, is the people we thought we liked, the career we achieved, the spouse we married, the kids we were so desperate to have, somehow don’t meet the happiness quotient we were hoping and we ask the question, “How do I find myself?”  Because surely if I found myself in the perfect place, I would find that joy, that peace, that happiness we all crave.  But as we look at the passage from Paul in Philippians we find that he’s revealing that it’s not in our external circumstances but instead it’s in our communion with God and the continued understanding that He loves us, He’s made provisions for us to ensure that we are equal to anything and gives us the inner strength for it.  Here’s the catch, it’s not a one time event!  It’s daily.  Just as we have to eat every day, breath 12-18 times per minute, so is our reliance on our Heavenly Father.  Are you looking at where you are at this stage in your life and asking the question, “How do I find myself”?  If so, let’s continue this journey to find ourselves in Him, what He’s done for us, who He’s created us to be and most importantly, the confidence to know that in His eyes we are beautiful, a perfect creation to accomplish exactly what He’s designed us to do and be!

Resource:  Andrew Murray’s Abide in Christ* http://www.biblestudytools.com/classics/murray-abide-christ/thirteenth-day.html   Is it possible for the believer always to abide in Jesus? Is a life of unbroken fellowship with the Son of God indeed attainable here in this earthly life? Truly not, if the abiding is our work, to be done in our strength. But the things that are impossible with men are possible with God. If the Lord Himself will keep the soul night and day, yea, will watch and water it every moment, then surely the uninterrupted communion with Jesus becomes a blessed possibility to those who can trust God to mean and to do what He says. Then surely the abiding of the branch of the vine day and night, summer and winter, in a never-ceasing life-fellowship, is nothing less than the simple but certain promise of your abiding in your Lord.

* Note – on the resource page I’ve added some information about this daily study, it’s been a tremendous blessing to me as I’ve pursued who I am as my Abba’s daughter and realizing that it’s not in my hard work but in my trusting and reliance on Him to keep me.

A Daughter’s Prayer – Abba, every hour I need You.  Oh bless me now my Savior, I come to You**.  I belong to You and desire to be, have and do all that is in Your heart for me.  Jesus, You are the way, You are the truth and You are our life!  Where would I go Lord, only You have the words of truth and words of life.  I put my whole trust in You as my vine and I am Your branch.  All I need is in You.  There is nothing for me in this world or in myself and my trust and hope is in You.  Pour over us all of Your goodness and mercy and may we see and acknowledge Your amazing wonders.  I love You Lord and thank You that You are always with me, always near me.  My hope is in You.  In Jesus’ holy name, amen.

** The hymn, I Need Thee Every Hour, was written by Annie Sherwood Hawks and was reflective of my desire to recognize the truth in that.  Here’s a little bit about her http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/i/n/ineedteh.htm